28 January 2021

Whose day

Ah, the annual culture wars over Australia Day.  The day only dates back to the mid-1990s anyway, so it's hardly great tradition.  It is a view of Australia that's kosher for the glass fully-full crew, though.  Along with the Queen and the Union Jack (not our union; rather it's a reference to the sun-never-sets empire that is now set).  Not that Australia is really so bad, but as lucky people sharing luck (as in mining!) we should be open to the less lucky.  But increasingly we aren't.  Since the new reaction of Howard, we've stubbornly stuck to old tropes, to the future cost of our kids, not least with climate.  As for our own indigenous people, for along time they have not been the lucky ones.  So we walked in the Invasion Day march to Parliament house.  I was surprised how many others did too.  I was not quite so enamoured of the speeches although I admit I caught very little given distant speakers using mere loudhailers. There was anger which is understandable but not politically effective.  The bikies arriving on Harleys, parking up front and presenting was a challenge.  Not that I could hear what they said either.  I have no doubt that land was never ceded (that's a fact) but the endless chants of always was, always will be is difficult, sounding to my ear of sole possession, but then I don't warm to chants.  On the other hand, the invitation to common love of land and the welcoming of non-indigenous supporters was more politic and well received.  It doesn't take many generations to come to love this land.  I could particularly understand the anger with the unrepresentative crew behind, in upper and lower chambers, and their lack of consultation, and I found it interesting that not one pollie was in attendance, so it was said.  Not morals but money talks, especially recently, on cultural issues, climate and more.  Recent reports from the Centre for Public Integrity indicate that.  So I felt this march was a huge success in numbers, but just a little uncomfortable in effect.  But given history, there's plenty for we non-indigenous to understand and remember, and no need to go back 60,000 years to view indigenous loss and disappointments.  One example was PM Turnbull's fairly recent misrepresentation of the Voice as a third house of Parliament.  Strange given the limited demands made for the Voice to Parliament: to me, it seemed so lacking in real power.  But now ScoMo seems more slippery in communication and more dangerous in hidden action.  But the levees will break, for climate, indigenous issues and the rest; hopefully not too late for the survival of civilisations, indigenous and non-.  Just remember the joy of the day of the Apology and imagine if Australia could surpass these eternal road blocks.  I doubt we'd ever return to the social laboratory of the past, but perhaps we could just recognise scientific and cultural truths once more and so move on.  That would be a good first step.  Our people do it reasonably well; it's our leaders, influenced as they are, who fail.

The Canberra Invasion Day march commemorated indigenous experiences otherwise celebrated as Australia Day.  Marchers walked from the Tent Embassy to the steps of the new Parliament House.

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